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Monday, October 24, 2005

NRSV register

Yesterday my wife and I worshipped in a church where the pew Bible is the NRSV. The Sunday School lesson from Acts 18 was excellent, very thorough. The teacher was on the pastoral staff, I believe. It was obvious that he was a sharp student of the book of Acts. My ears perked up when he mentioned that the NRSV was his favorite version.

The sermon was also good, from Col. 3, and stayed close to the biblical text.

I have not personally used the NRSV very much, but from my exposure to it yesterday, I noticed that the vocabulary of the NRSV is in a higher register than that used in several other English Bible versions used today. This requires that users of the NRSV know a more technical and "higher level" (more "educated") vocabulary than that used in other versions. This tells me that whether intended or not, the NRSV is targeted at an audience of readers who are more highly educated than those who read most other recent English versions. This would be true even if the NRSV ranks the same as other versions on reading level tests such as Flesch-Kincaid. F-K is not a smart enough test to measure vocabulary register. For vocabulary, F-K only measures reading level in terms of average word length, not register level.

Given the higher register of the NRSV vocabulary, it is no surprise that the NRSV is highly recommended by many biblical scholars. Of course "ordinary" readers can still use the NRSV. But some of them may need to use an annotated edition of the NRSV which defines the higher register words, if there are such editions. Or they may need to have an English dictionary beside them when they read the NRSV.

When I can free up some time, I would like to create another poll to be posted on this blog, field testing how well Bible readers understand some of the less well known words in the NRSV.

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At Wed Oct 26, 07:41:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

The NRSV has been fairly underrated, especially by evangelicals because of it's sponsorhip by the National Council of Churches. But it's very well done by a number of cabable translators including Bruce M. Metzger who was associatated with it. The translation of the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals available in some editions is probably the best done to date.


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